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So You Wanna Start A Wedding Venue with Ashley Long from The Prelude

Welcome to our So You Wanna Start A... series, designed to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the journeys that went into creating some of your favorite local brands.

Today's guest is Ashley Long, co-owner, along with her husband, of The Prelude, a wedding venue in New Virginia, Iowa.

Our favorite piece of advice: "Dream big and start small." You need both. You need those big dreams to spur you forward in tough moments and keep you hoping for a future you're working towards. But you also have to start small and keep taking small steps forward each day to be able to reach those big dreams.

If you're curious about starting a wedding venue, learn a little more from Ashley and connect with her using the links below!

1. What do you own and why did you start this business?

The Prelude was dreamed up by my husband, Nathanael, and I who craved a feeling we had only experienced in far off lands and story books - Nathanael and I knew there were others out there who dreamed of running away to places that gave them that whimsical feeling again but couldn't see themselves ever doing it. So April 17, 2017 a month before my 23rd birthday, we decided to start our journey of creating a place that brought that whimsy and feeling to us - A place for authentic people who crave a romantic dream from a vanished age. Not only a place that should be seen - but also experienced.

Our main passion is music and intimate parties - That's really what started it all and planted the seed of this vision over 5 years ago. When we're not doing that, we love being able to share our special place with couples in love wanting to take that next step - dreaming of an intimate, romantic, and secluded place to do that at. We love when they share with us that same feeling we get when we're here!

2. Tell us about your main offer.

We host intimate weddings, elopements, and private parties at The Prelude for both outdoor weddings/events and indoors weddings/events in our Hall equipped with A/C and heating as well as a professional sound system.

3. What's different or unique about you?

It would be one thing if Nathanael and I looked at the wedding industry in central Iowa and decided to create a cookie-cutter fool-proof venue for generating income but that's not the case... I know everybody says this, but truly it's not about the money for us. Nathanael and I have such a passion for old money aesthetic and environments that cause you to fully embrace the romance of the moment that we decided we would build The Prelude whether or not it made us any money at all. The style of The Prelude was created by pulling designs all the way back from ancient old world gardens and castles, to old money mansions and courtyards, to the beauty that can be found in styles today. As a result, the most common comment we get from people who come to The Prelude is "I've never seen anything like this." Why? Because we're not following any playbook - We're taking the liberty to express our creative freedom to create something truly unique out here. Something that we can be proud of.

4. What is an early win you had that made you feel like you were on the right path?

Prayers answered. When Nathanael and I decided to pull the trigger and build the Hall for our venue we were well aware of the large price tag that would come with it. In fact, we knew the exact price we needed to get it off the ground. We checked our pockets quick but, to no ones surprise, there wasn't enough change.. so we decided to pull equity out of our 15 acres and tiny house we paid for out of pocket. I felt a push to test my faith and pray for and visualize not just the amount we needed to get going on the project but a very specific number I was confident would be a miracle to get. I did this consistently for 1 month. I remember vividly the morning I woke up to the email telling us what the total amount came out to be.. just a hair OVER the exact number I prayed for and visualized receiving! There was no question in my mind after that morning that I'm on the right path.

5. What's one of the biggest challenges you’ve had?

Is it bad to say all of it most days? I'm incredibly proud of all that we've created out here. Often I do a mental zoom out and am overwhelmed with gratitude - but it's a result of hard work and stepping out of my comfort zone every day several times a day. I'm often reminded of the quote "The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough." - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. To me that's the most exciting scary thought ever!! I have big dreams for The Prelude that I've only scratched the surface of.. patience is admittedly my single greatest struggle which has ironically been the resounding theme of this entire venture. I know that the things I want to achieve are going to require a lot more of it from me no matter how many times I wish I could just close my eyes, click my heals, and *VOILA* I've arrived! These are my adult growing pains, in the moment I curse them and when I look back, I thank them. I wouldn't be where I am now without them. I'll end with one last quote: "Effectiveness in life does not come from focusing on what is automatic, easy, or natural for us. Rather, it is the result of how we consciously strive to meet life's harder challenges, grow beyond our comforts, and deliberately work to overcome our biases and preferences, so that we may understand, love, serve, and lead others." - Brendon Burchard

6. What are three pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring business owners in the event industry?

1) Dream big and start small! When looking at the peak of a mountain it's easy to psych yourself out from ever even starting if all you do is think about how the heck you're going to get all the way up there from all the way down here. Instead, choose the peak you want to summit then focus on the first few steps, trusting your ability to overcome any obstacle that might come your way along the ascent and allow yourself to rest often.

2) Mindset is essential! "Attitudes are more important than facts." - The Power Of Positive Thinking - I meditate for at least 15 minutes first thing every morning (after I get my cup of coffee) to maintain focus, clarity, gratitude, servitude, and mission. I'm positive that mindset it everything, that's why there are rich and successful people who commit suicide and conversely poor people who have a lust for life. I'm confident that if I lost everything and had to become a garbage man just to make ends meet, I'd be one of the jolliest garbage persons you'd ever meet because I consciously practice to *choose* gratitude and joy everyday.

3) Have a firm belief in a Higher Power, however you define it for yourself. For me, that is God.

7. What are some of your favorite business books or podcasts?

  1. Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  2. High Performance Habits by Brandon Burchard
  3. Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

 8. What are three of your favorite business resources you couldn’t live without?

Passion, faith/courage, and a committed partner (in my case my best friend/husband). I believe any business can be successful with these key factors.

 9. Where is your business heading next and what are you excited about?

We are now able to host indoor weddings alongside outdoor weddings now that we have a gorgeous new Hall equipped with A/C and heating and a professional sound system! I'm excited to share a wedding venue who's style and atmosphere is one that no one in the Midwest has seen before!

Find Ashley & The Prelude:

Instagram: @thepreludexii

Facebook: @thepreludexii


Want to be featured in our SYWSA series? Fill out our contact form here to get the ball rolling.


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